Toronto Rock captain Colin Doyle still in love with lacrosse after 17 seasons
Toronto Rock Colin Doyle hoists the trophy after beating the Arizona Sting in the Champion's Cup game in Toronto Saturday May 14, 2005. The Rock beat the Sting 19-13. (CP PHOTO/Aaron Harris)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, January 4, 2014 1:58PM EST
TORONTO -- First game of the season and the Toronto Rock locker-room is jumping.
The music is blaring and kids of assorted size -- most in team jerseys -- have the run of the boxy Air Canada Centre dressing room that is normally home to visiting NHL and NBA teams. A dozen pizza boxes cover a table in the middle and Rock captain Colin Doyle, in the wake of Friday's season-opening 16-11 win over the Calgary Roughnecks, is beaming.
"The best part of playing in this league is bringing your kids into the room and letting them see the guys and hang out," said the 36-year-old Doyle, who has three daughters. "You're not going to become a millionaire (so) you might as well have fun doing it.
"We can get pretty gloomy when we don't win but why not have fun with this? This is a great opportunity. The crowd (of 11,120) was great tonight, everybody was excited. I thought we put on a real worthwhile performance, we didn't cheat anybody. They all went home happy, so that's a good feeling."
It took Doyle less than 12 minutes into his 17th pro lacrosse season to claim a Gordie Howe hat-trick of sorts.
Doyle scored the Rock's first goal, taking a pass on the edge of the crease and then faking out Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin before putting the ball past him as he flew through the air.
He followed it up with two assists before taking umbrage at Calgary's Andrew McBride cross-checking a Rock teammate in the face near the Roughnecks goal. Doyle made a beeline for McBride and the two were soon trading stick shots and shoves. Perhaps not a fight but Doyle had sent a signal that he had his teammate's back.
"I felt it was a cheap shot at his head," Doyle explained later. "Maybe a little out of discipline but I don't like seeing that stuff, not to my teammates."
Doyle finished with two goals and two assists on the night, upping his career regular-season totals to 486 goals, 780 assists and 1,266 points in 238 games.
The six-foot-three 215-pounder from Kitchener, Ont., ranks second all-time in the National Lacrosse League in assists and points and fourth in goals. Buffalo's John Tavares leads all the categories.
Doyle has won just about all there is in lacrosse.
Named NLL Rookie of the Year in 1998, he has hoisted the Champion's Cup six times and been named MVP of the champion game three times. A 10-time all-star, he was named league MVP in 2005 and won the league scoring title in 2005 and 2009.
Away from the NLL, he has won the Mann Cup four times -- even serving as an emergency goalie for the Six Nations Chiefs in 2013 before scoring the game-tying goal and winner to decide the series -- and helped Canada to the World Indoor and World Lacrosse Championships.
Doyle says he feels every bit of his 16 previous NLL campaigns but takes good care of his body and hopes to feel younger as the season wears on. Winning helps.
His skills remain sharp. He clearly measures his output but the bag of tricks remains very deep.
Faced with a Roughnecks defender at one point Friday, Doyle initiated contact and then rolled away before flicking a shot at the goalie.
"He's one of a kind," said Rock teammate Jesse Gamble, who played box lacrosse with Doyle last summer.
"He's always energetic, he's always got a great attitude. He always gets guys feeling like they're ready to play the game ... You couldn't ask for a better captain. Plus what he does on the floor. He leads the team both on and off the floor."
Calgary coach Curt Malawsky is a friend and former teammate of Doyle's. Asked what makes him special, Malawsky offers one word -- character.
"He takes teams on his back, he does the dirty work when it needs to be done. He scores nothing but big goals. Off the floor, a consummate professional and he's all about the team.
"I'm very proud to call him a friend and he'll be a first-ballot NLL Hall of Famer. Anyone who watches the NLL, he should be our poster boy for it."
Rock coach John Lovell is also a fan.
"He's ready to go for another season. It's a great plus to have."
As for Doyle, he was just glad to put the grind of training camp behind him. Friday night was almost a perfect start to the season, despite the fact that backup goalie Zak Boychuk tripped and fell over as he stepped onto the field during introductions to Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."
"It was about as good as it can gets, I think, as far as starts go," Doyle said of the game. "I really didn't know what to expect. You never know going into a season how good you are or who you are or any of that.
"Not that we discovered it all tonight but we showed a little glimpse of what we can be when things go well and when we're disciplined and all the right things happen."
Away from the field, Doyle has put a teaching career on hold to sell synthetic grass fields across Ontario. He plays lacrosse 10 months of the year, putting his stick down only in October and November.
Day jobs are a necessity in a league that has a maximum salary of $27,217 for veterans. Designated "franchise" players get an additional $5,000 for the season.
"It's not all about the dollars and cents," Doyle said. "We take a lot of pride in what we do and in hopefully impressing the people who pay to come and see us play."